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DACA Hearing Focuses on Judge’s Prior Ruling

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen asked attorneys to submit new briefs in the case

Elizabeth Trovall | Houston Public Media
This photo shows the entrance to the court Judge Andrew Hanen presides. Judge Hanen told lawyers for the Office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the civic group MALDEF to return to court next Monday, August 13, with additional briefs.

A hearing before a federal judge in Houston over the fate of a program shielding young immigrants from deportation has focused heavily on the judge’s previous ruling against an earlier Obama-era program.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen heard arguments Wednesday in a case brought by Texas against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Texas and several other states say the program is unlawful.

Three years ago, Hanen ruled against an expansion of protections for immigrant parents. A federal appeals court later upheld his ruling, then the U.S. Supreme Court split, so the new protections for parents never went into effect.

Three other federal judges have ruled against the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA. If Hanen rules that DACA could end, it would create a conflict between legal rulings that legal experts say would draw the attention of higher courts.

Hanen asked pointed questions of both sides Wednesday about how DACA compares to his 2015 ruling against an expansion of DACA and another program shielding immigrant parents in the U.S. illegally.

He asked attorneys to submit new briefs in the case by Monday, August 13.

Cesar Espinosa, executive director of the Houston-based group Immigrant Families and Students in the Struggle (FIEL, by its acronym in Spanish), said in a statement his organization hopes Judge Hanen “considers the full merits of this case and allows the DACA program to keep functioning as is.”

United We Dream, the largest organization of undocumented immigrant youth in the United States, also sent out a statement after the hearing and encouraged DACA recipients to renew their permits immediately regardless of their expiration dates because the group believes the Trump administration “will use Hanen's upcoming ruling to end the DACA renewals process.”

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